Sports
Former Toronto figure skating coach guilty of assault, gross indecency

Former figure skating coach Mike Sanderson.

Credits: PAZZANO/Handout/QMI Agency

SAM PAZZANO | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO — Former figure skating coach Mike Sanderson was found guilty Friday of indecently assaulting and performing an act of gross indecency on a 16-year-old Toronto figure skater in 1978.

Justice Bonnie Croll found that Sanderson kissed and touched the teen inappropriately then propositioned her after giving the girl he coached a ride home.

The teen who rebuffed him asked if he loved his wife and then “used a ruse” that her neighbours would be checking up on her to prompt Sanderson to leave, said the judge.

“I found her evidence to be sequential, common sensical and credible,” said the judge of the testimony by the now 50-year-old woman, who wasn’t in court Friday.

Croll acquitted Sanderson, now 55, of more serious allegations involving a then-13-year-old girl, who testified she lost her virginity to him in 1981 or 1982 and had intercourse with him on two other occasions leaning against his car.

But Croll found the prosecution hadn’t proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“It may be the case that Sanderson committed the offences as described. It’s not enough ... that’s not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Croll.

The woman -- who turned 44 Friday -- wept while listening to the judgment as Croll called her a “sincere and candid witness who did her best to recall events.”

The identity of both women is protected by a publication ban.

The 44-year-old woman had testified that she repressed the memories of her sexual experiences with Sanderson until she saw the grief-stricken father speak to CTV’s W5 about the tragic death of his 21-year-old son, Don.

Don Sanderson died in January 2009 after a hockey fight where his helmet came off and his unprotected head hit the ice.

“When I heard his voice, I had a rush of blood and sickness come to me,” she testified.

After undergoing therapy and upon learning she could lay charges despite the fact that three decades had passed, she came forward.

Despite the disappointing decision, she told reporters afterwards she was glad that she did testify because it spurred the second woman to make her allegation that resulted in the two sex offence convictions.

“Although this has been hell for me, something came of it and you’re doing good for society. You need to come forward,” said the emotional woman, urging any others who experienced advances by Sanderson to report to police.

Sanderson will be sentenced on March 1.

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